The Ministers of the Governments of the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Romania, responsible for regional development gathered in Sliac, Slovak Republic
Facing the new possibilities and challenges of a dynamic regional development and territorial development,
Recognizing an increasing number of areas and issues of common interest in the field of regional policy, cohesion policy and urban development among the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic,
Wishing to give voice, to safeguard and to pursue the common interests of the countries of the Visegrad Group and Bulgaria and Romania,
the Ministers have agreed on these Conclusions:
The Ministers declare the willingness to strengthen their commitment to work for the needs of the regions of this part of Europe.
In this period of a key importance in the process of negotiations of the next programming period 2007–2013, the undersigned Ministers acknowledge the need for the smoothest possible progress as well as successful conclusion of this process for all EU Member States. It is of crucial importance that the negotiations can be concluded and the programmes to be co-funded by the Structural and Cohesion Funds and can start as soon as possible.
The Ministers confirm the willingness to continue and deepen the cooperation as regards the exchange of experience and information in the area of the Structural and Cohesion Funds management and implementation with an aim to contribute to securing the effectiveness and efficiency of contributions.
The Ministers acknowledge the importance of cooperation in the area of formulation of common positions as an instrument of better promotion of the interests of the Visegrad Group countries, Bulgaria and Romania.
The Ministers repeatedly stress the importance of one of the main urban problems of the new Member States - post-war panel housing estates. Unparalleled tenure structure in housing stock with very high owner-occupied segment, extremely high energy consumption, is a challenge for which a new set of instruments has to be prepared.
Following the response of Mrs. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition, on our letter concerning housing renovation and state aid rules, the Ministers decided to establish an ad hoc expert working group to analyse the response, as well as the Commission staff working document—a Vademecum on "State aid control and regeneration of deprived urban areas" with the aim to find a viable interpretation of existing regulations, enabling our countries to implement in practise integrated urban development plans including housing modernisation.
To this end they will support informal working bilateral and multilateral informal consultations with the DG Regio and DG Competition. The Ministers also call for innovative and flexible approach of the Commission in response to our specific needs, particularly in discussions on criteria for selection of eligible areas for integrated urban regeneration programmes and an ambiguous and contradictory problem regarding housing renovation and state aid.
The Ministers also request a flexible approach of the EU Commission and to adapt the EU State Aid Policy' requirements, in order for the objectives of the EU Cohesion Policy to be achieved.
The Ministers support further studying, analysing and assessing of all possibilities of using financial engineering instruments and incentives to leverage private capital channelled into integrated urban development and regeneration.
The Ministers stress their belief that the better we manage to stabilize residential neighbourhoods economically and upgrade their physical environment, the better the chances are that we prevent social exclusion of vulnerable groups and that our cities will remain places of social progress, economic growth and innovation in the long term.
Signed in Sliač, Slovakia, on 26th June 2007 in seven copies in the English language.
For the Slovak Republic
For the Republic of Hungary
For the Republic of Poland
For the Czech Republic
For the Republic of Bulgaria
For the Republic of Romania